Health

Tamper-resistant oxycodone called a 'gimmick' in growing opioid crisis

Some Toronto doctors are warning fellow health professionals to “not be fooled,” saying new rules requiring tamper resistant oxycodone are not a solution to Canada's growing opioid crisis.

Toronto doctors warn others to 'not be fooled' by regulations promising tamper resistant oxycodone

Some doctors are calling tamper resistant painkillers – designed to prevent people from crushing, snorting or injecting it for a quick high – a "gimmick" in the fight against Canada's growing opioid crisis.

The comments were published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, titled "Tamper-resistant drugs cannot solve the opioid crisis."

Earlier this year, the federal government introduced draft regulations that would force all oxycodone products, such as the painkiller OxyContin, to be tamper resistant in an effort to combat prescription drug abuse. Canada has the second highest use of prescription narcotics per capita, a U.S. study suggests.

Dr. Pamela Leece from the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at the University of Toronto and her two co-authors warned fellow health professionals to "not be fooled" by the promise of tamper-resistant drugs as a solution to the epidemic.

They say a review of the research shows it has been ineffective in preventing oxycodone-related addiction and death.

One study highlighted found opioid-related deaths in Ontario have continued to rise since 2012 even after tamper-resistant OxyContin replaced existing drugs formulations.

The authors believe users may be shifting to other prescription drugs or opioids, such as heroin.

After Ontario's provincial government limited OxyContin's availability in 2009, prescriptions for other narcotics such as hydromorphone and fentanyl increased 79 per cent and 20 per cent, respectively, by 2013.

With regulations being introduced requiring oxycodone to be tamper resistant, the authors fear doctors may be more likely to prescribe the drug if it continues to be marketed "as being more safe." They say about 80 per cent of patients who seek treatment for opioid abuse are first exposed to the drug through a prescription.

They argue such regulations may serve, "merely to line the pockets of drug companies while diverting policy-makers' attention away from more meaningful and effective interventions."

Instead, the authors want a comprehensive strategy focused on better prescription practices, earlier recognition of abuse and increased access to effective treatment programs.

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